Livestock Research for Rural Development 24 (12) 2012 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Leaf extract from Tithonia diversifolia cures Scabies in rabbits

Vu Thi Thu Hang, Chu Duc Tuy, Nguyen Ngoc Anh and T R Preston*

Goat and Rabbit Research Centre (GRRC)
Son Tay, Bavi, Vietnam
* TOSOLY, AA48 Socorro, Santander del Sur, Colombia


The experiment was performed from January to April of 2011 in six households in Bavi district and in GRRC in North Vietnam. The treatments were three levels of fresh Tithonia diversifolia leaves: 300, 250, 150 g which were extracted in 100 ml of water and applied to affected areas on the bodies of the rabbits, 4 times daily and repeated over a period of 5 days. The control of Ivermectin was given by injection.

The water extracts of fresh Tithonia diversifolia leaves had a positive effect in treating Scabies.  The best results, similar to what was achieved with Ivermectin, were at the highest concentration (300 g fresh leaves in 100 ml water).

Key words: flavenoids, fungi, mange, phytochemicals, saponins


Scabies known as Sarcoptic mange is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrows under the host's skin, causing intense allergic itching. In rabbits it is normally treated by injecting with Ivermectin, but this has a high cost and is not always effective.

For a long time, during the process of controlling diseases, the Vietnamese have used many methods of curing by using traditional medicines. Many traditional medicines are made from plants that are easy to grow and as a result the cost is low.  Tithonia diversifolia commonly known as Mexican sunflower is a member of the family Asteraceae. There have been many studies suggesting that Tithonia can be used for many different purposes, such as feed for animals and fish, as fuel, compost, land demarcation, soil erosion, building materials and shelter for poultry (Olabode et al 2007). An early report from Colombia indicated its agronomic potential (Ríos and Salazar 1994). Since then it has been reported to be a good source of green manure for maize in Kenya,  Malawi  and  Zimbabwe (Nziguheba et al 2002), for cowpea (Taiwo and Makinde 2005) and for potted tomato plants (Liasu and Achakzai 2007). Particularly, the extract from leaves and buds of Tithonia has been used as a medicine to treat various ailments such as constipation, stomach pains, indigestion, some throat and liver pains (Agboola et al 2006) and  malaria (Oyewole et al 2008; Odugbemi et al 2007) and Scabies in animals and humans (

In Vietnam, Tithonia grows wild in the high lands and recently has been cultivated in the GRRC where it produced high yields of biomass (Sao et al 2010). In Lao PDR,  there are reports of its potential use as the basal diet of growing goats (Pathoummalangsy and Preston 2008). However, there appears to have been no research in the SE Asia region on its use for treating diseases. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the use of an extract from leaves of Tithonia diversifolia for treating Scabies in rabbits.

Materials and Methods


The experiment was conducted on farms in Bavi district, Viet Nam. Fifteen rabbits that were infected by Scabies in various households were allocated at random to treatments which consisted of different dose levels of Tithonia leaf extract. 

Experimental design

The three treatments were the aqueous extracts from three quantities of Tithonia leaves of:  150, 250 and 300 g. The extract was applied to the itchy sores of rabbits 4 times daily and repeated over a period of 5 days. The control of Ivermectin (2ml) was given by injection.

Preparation of Tithonia leaf extract and application to the Scabies sores on the rabbits

The different quantities of fresh Tithonia leaves (150, 250 and 300 g) were cut into small pieces  and then ground in 100 ml of water to give three different concentrations of extract. The extracts were separated by filtration and applied on 4 separate occasions to the rabbits: at  7.00, 10.00, 15.00 and 18.00h on each of 5 days consecutively.

Phytochemical screening

Flavonoids:  About 0.2 g of extract was treated with a few drops of  NaOH 10%.  Deposition of a yellow precipitation indicated the presence of flavonoids.

Tannins: About 5g of extract was stirred with 10 ml of distilled water. It was filtered and FeCl3 5% (Ferric chloride reagent) was added to the filtrate. A  blue-green, green or blue–black precipitation indicated the presence of tannins

Saponins: About 5g of extract was shaken with distilled water in a test tube. Frothing which persisted on warming indicated the presence of saponins

Alkaloids: About 5 g of extract was stirred with 0.5 ml of 1% aqueous hydrochloric acid in a

 steam bath. 1ml of the filtrate was treated with 2 drops of  Dragendorff,s  reagent. Deposition of

 a red-orange precipitate indicated the presence of alkaloids. 

The analyses were carried out in April, 2012 at the Vietnamese National institute of Medicinal Materials


The time (days) required for the treatments to cure the Scabies was recorded. The rabbits were weighed before applying the treatments, at  recovery time and again 10 days later.

Statistical analysis

The data from the experiment were analyzed using the General Linear Model option of the ANOVA program in the Minitab software (Minitab 2000). Sources of variation were treatments and error.


Phytochemicals in leaf extracts of T. diversifolia

Various phytochemicals were found to be present in the leaf extracts of T. diversifolia (Table 1). Flavonoids and saponins were the phytochemicals in highest concentration with moderate levels of tannins.  Saponins have been shown to inhibit the growth and development of bacteria and fungi (Francis et al 2002).

Table 1: Preliminary photochemical screening of T. diversifolia leaves

Ordinal number















++: Present in high concentration; +: Moderately present; - : Absent

The anti-scabies activity of extracts of T. diversifolia leaves

The length of the recovery time in response to the dose rate of Tithonia leaf extract was linearly related with the concentration of the extract, with best results, similar to what was achieved with Ivermectin, at the highest concentration (300 g fresh leaves in 100 ml water) (Table 2; Figure 1).

Table 2:  Mean values of recovery time from Scabies in rabbits treated with Ivermectin or extracts of Tithonia leaves of different concentrations





The quantities of Tithonia leaves used for each extract, g 





Recovery time, days






abc Mean within rows with different superscripts differ at  P<0.05

Figure 1. Effect of different concentrations of Tithonia leaf extracts on time to recover from Scabies

 The live weight of the rabbits in different periods

The rabbits did not change in weight during the treatment period (Table 3). This is because Scabies makes rabbits itch and to feel uncomfortable leading to reduced feed intake. After recovery from Scabies, their feed intake  improved and their growth rate at this time did not differ from other healthy rabbits.  

Table 3: The change in live weight of the rabbits in different periods


Dose of fresh Tithonia diversifolia leaves, g





 Live weight during the treatment period, g

At the beginning





End of  recovery  period





Daily gain, g





 Live weight after the treatment period, g

End of recovery period  





10 days later





Daily gain, g






The in vitro tests carried out by Ogundare (2007) and Omwenga et al  (2010) indicated that the chloroform and methanol extracts of T. diversifolia leaves had inhibitory effects on certain strains of bacteria (Salmonella typhi and Staphylococcus aureus) and on fungi (Candida albicans).  However, Ogundare (2007) raised the question that “the in vivo test will reveal whether or not the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity of extracts of T. diversifolia leaves will reduce, increase or give the same results as in the in vitro test”. The findings of our study answer this question by showing that the aqueous extract of T.diversifolia leaves can inhibit the growth and development of fungi in our case the organism causing Scabies (Sarcoptes scabiei).



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Received 2 October 2012; Accepted 16 November 2012; Published 2 December 2012

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